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Do You Need an Attorney to Probate an Estate in Westchester County?

Should You Handle An Estate By Yourself?

One of the first things that people wonder when the time comes for them to probate an estate is whether or not they need to hire an attorney. Many feel that they have the skills needed to handle probating an estate themselves as a way of saving some money. Some people actually are attorneys, but practice in a field not related to estates. However, it is usually not a great idea to try to go it alone when handling an estate and it could end up costing you greatly in the long run. The best idea when you are probating an estate is to hire a skilled and experienced Westchester estate attorney.

No one is obligated to use an attorney in any legal proceeding, per se. That is not to say, however, that representing yourself in probate proceedings is a good idea. Usually, the reason that people believe they can probate an estate themselves is that they think it is simply a matter of filing a couple of papers with the court or writing a few checks to creditors and heirs. When people are dealing with smaller estates especially, they believe that the easiest and cheapest way to deal with probate themselves, without a lawyer. Probating a will, like almost every legal issue, is really best dealt with by an attorney to be sure that it is done correctly, especially to keep yourself from being personally liable for mistakes you make as an executor or administrator later on.

Probating an estate means filling out specific forms, meeting deadlines and dealing with the courts. All of the assets must be found, something that perhaps would not be that easy. Creditors, beneficiaries and heirs must be found and properly paid in the proper order. In some cases, estate taxes need to be paid within a very strict deadline. You also have a requirement to keep an accounting of how all of the assets of the estate are handed out. All of this involves having intimate knowledge of the Surrogate’s Court in Westchester County works and knowing specifically what needs to be done to properly probate the estate to make sure that there are few to no problems in the future.

Another reason you want to be sure that you have an attorney on your side when you are probating an estate is in the case of another party starting litigation relating to the estate. It is always possible that a beneficiary or heir will contest their inheritance, leading to an extended legal battle. While you may believe that everything will go smoothly when you first try probating the estate, things can end up going bad quickly.

Finally, there are actually responsibilities that you have as an executor or administrator where you can face personal legal responsibility if things are done wrong. One big example is when it comes to estate taxes. If these are not paid on time or not paid at all, you could be responsible. Other examples of things that could cause personal liability would be not making a proper accounting of how the money was distributed, not properly informing a creditor or not properly protecting assets of the estate.

All of this can be avoided if you hire a Westchester estate attorney. An attorney will have the knowledge needed to make sure that the estate is probated as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich at (914) 293-2043.